My time in Missouri

As many friends and colleagues know I recently received a fellowship at the Reynolds Journalism Institute at the University of Missouri. The fellowship will let me continue to work on Spot.Us, expanding it to more places around the country and define community-focused sponsorships.

This nine-month journey (an academic year) began this week.

There will be many professional related opportunities during my time here at one of the country’s best journalism schools. I hope to chronicle them on my personal blog, MediaShift, The Reynolds blog and elsewhere. If you are a regular reader, you know the majority of this blog is about the future of news and information. That will not change during my time here. In fact, I suspect it will become richer.

But this post will be about me. Hey, it’s my blog.

In response to the odd look people give me when I tell them I’m moving to Missouri I’ve been repeating the phrase: “it’ll be a life experience.”

I’ve lived in three places in this great country. There is a part of me that belongs to each of them. I love the saying “live in San Francisco but leave before it makes you soft. Live in New York but leave before it makes you too hard.” I can relate to both and I’d add: “live in Los Angeles but leave before it makes you insane.” I am intimately tied and defined by LA, SF and New York. A part of me wants to take the rest of this post to rant about my experiences in each city and how they’ve shaped me. I could write forever about growing up in Los Angeles and being a product of LAUSD (best experience possible), going to school at UC Berkeley and living in SF or my time in New York where I still feel at home. Many people are surprised to find out I’m not a native New Yorker and truth be told, in another life I could have settled down there very easily (most of my friends are still there). But I’ll spare you that personal nostalgia. This is a post about what’s happening right now.

My hope for this time in Missouri is that I will be humbled – but I will leave before I become too humbled.

I am irrevocably a city-boy. I have only lived in major metropolitan cities on either coast. I have never lived outside of a liberal/democrat city with a diverse population. I don’t write this to point out superiority (which is too often the assumption of my city-dwelling friends) but to highlight my background and how this might influence me.

The last two days I’ve biked all around Columbia Missouri. I ate at my first Waffle House. It was AMAZING. I also ate at a Mexican Restaurant out here. It was HORRIBLE. I guess a guy can’t have it all.

So far my time in Missouri has been great (all four days). I live with Will Sullivan from Journerdism which is really cool. I hope to learn a lot from him. If at the end of this fellowship Will can’t form full sentences, it’s because my mind-sucking machine worked (mmuuuahahahaha).

It is a little slice of America here. Or at least – a different slice than what I’ve been served my whole life. It’s all the little things. The lack of fences and open spaces between houses. The loud Sakata Cicada bugs (Yelvington pointed out the spelling error – it shows how little I know). The bunny rabbit I’ve seen on my block several times now. The massive tailgating I witnessed biking past the football stadium. The broke down bar around the corner from me where the entire bar said goodbye to man named “Cadillac,” who had what can only be described as an “epic” beard.

I am inherently a city-boy (as somebody at the Bar called me when I told them where I’ve lived). You can take the boy out of the city – but it’s still in me.

But I am not a city snob. One thing that originally drew me to journalism was the idea of getting to know other folks doing their thing, being who they are. It’s easy for a city-boy to judge. But that’s the lazy route. That’s the “damn liberals” or “stupid conservatives” route that has divided this country. I’m here to learn. I’m here to explore. I feel like a puppy exposed to a new environment, smelling all that she can or the boy from the R.E.M. video “It’s the end of the world as we know it“).

But what song really comes to mind is Simon and Garfunkle – America. The personal irony here is that “The Only Living Boy in New York” was one of a few songs that gave me strength and chills when I lived in Brooklyn. In fact, that song still has significant personal meaning. I suspect “America” will do the same for my time in Missouri. Strange how songs can do that. But the truth is – my time here is just beginning. It will be a life experience. I will capture occasional moments on my personal side blog. This main blog will remain what it is – my rants, raves, thoughts and desires for the future of media, news and journalism. But since moving to a foreign place is one of the more momentous changes a person can go through, I hope you excuse this personal post.


The Only Living Boy in New York.